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Looking through the lens of automation to 2022

After another year of disruption, albeit far less than 2020, for many organisations, 2022 will be all about recovery and resilience. This will involve the continuation of establishing new working practices and processes so that the business runs efficiently and employees are empowered to be productive and deliver their best work.

Consequently, it is going to put automation, workplace bots, and the role of humans in the spotlight once more.

Addressing the future, head-on

Because the pandemic has left an indelible mark on how and where business is conducted, organisations and employees are, quite rightly, critiquing the most appropriate course of action hereon in. Whether that is in the roles and jobs that can be designated to automation or, for employees, being empowered to look for another role - a trend dubbed as the Great Resignation (something we touched upon in our previous blog). This huge state of flux is well supported by the numbers.

Automation is now the top trend in technology according to McKinsey. This great piece by Craig Le Clair, vice president, principal analyst, Forrester suggests that in 2022 we can expect, “existing process improvement platforms will converge and be challenged by new AI-led entrants; investment to address global worker shortages will be prioritised; and to address the future head-on, enterprises will embrace an automation fabric to fuel extreme innovation.”

Foursight for 2022

Of course, the component parts to this debate are not new and have been shaping business activity for some time. It’s just that events of the last year or two have not only accelerated it but also uncovered some major themes when it comes to the relationship between bots and humans in the workplace. Amongst others, these are the four major trends that will shape global commerce in 2022 when looking through the lens of automation.

Investment - Businesses have seen the art of the possible and, in some cases, been forced to adopt automation in order to survive. There’s no way back and its opened the door to a huge wave of investment only now, there isn't the external pressures of the pandemic to contend with. Businesses have more time again and will want to know that any investment is being spent wisely and strategically. As a result, we will see strategic and implementation plans designed to deliver a world-class enterprise-wide automation capability with centralised governance, visibility, and control. 

Sustainability - The pervasive messaging around this issue is clear - the time to act is yesterday. Businesses have no choice but to listen and adapt so it is no surprise that as of March 2021, the number of chief sustainability officers (CSOs) across Fortune 500 companies had risen to 95, with almost a third of them added in 2020 alone - There are some other good data points in this article. These individuals need rapid results so are turning to technology to green their organisations.

Human-digital - We’re on the cusp of hybrid human-digital workforces being commonplace. Indeed, we’re already seeing instances of people working side-by-side with their virtual robotic assistants, sharing tasks, handing work off, taking it back dozens of times a day and this is only going to increase. As a result, we’re going to see a lot of retraining and upskilling and individuals are given the tools to get maximum bang for both or, more pertinently, move into other roles where automation has taken on the bulk of admin-heavy work.

Future of work - Gartner estimates that the use of collaboration platforms alone surged 44% between 2019 and 2021. McKinsey suggests that more than 20% of the global workforce -- although mainly those in desk-based roles in verticals such as finance, insurance, and IT -- could work most of the time away from the office without any impact on productivity. Automation will play a key role in a hybrid and connected work environment and, as a result, shape the wider work/life balance, which is already gathering pace with companies offering ‘remote forever’ or countries moving to a four-day working week. There is some great further analysis in this article from Microsoft.

Role of orchestration

We’re going to see some major changes in the next 12 months and beyond but central to the successful adoption and delivery of automation is how it is orchestrated within the organisation, particularly in light of the simultaneous changes to working patterns. Indeed, how processes and ways of working are orchestrated has the potential to make or break automation deployments - a business can have the best solution on the market but, if it is not correctly orchestrated with other tools and systems and in the context of a hybrid workforce, there’s no way the maximum benefits can be realised. There’s also a chance it creates just as many problems as it solves. 

If you’re after a good example of orchestration done well, this paper by one of our customers, Capgemini is a worthwhile read. If that doesn’t get you in the mood for kicking off your orchestration journey in 2022, nothing will.